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Members Weigh In on Draft Disclosure Order

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Rep. Mike Capuano is gathering signatures on a letter supporting President Barack Obama’s proposed executive order requiring contractors to disclose political donations.

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The draft order's focus on government contractors — and not labor unions or federal grantees — has drawn the ire of lawmakers, including Democrats in contractor-heavy districts and some who supported prior campaign contribution reform efforts such as the ill-fated DISCLOSE Act, which was intended to beef up campaign disclosure in the wake of the Citizens United decision.

Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Gerry Connolly (Va.) have said they oppose the order in its current form. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee handling contracting issues, joined Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in criticizing the draft order in a May 12 letter. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) also signed the letter.

"I give her credit," Portman said of McCaskill, who he hopes will hold a hearing on the matter. "She's a supporter of DISCLOSE, she has reasons not to take on her leadership and the White House right now, but I think she's doing what she thinks is right, and this is one of those issues that really goes to the core of whether you believe contracting ought to be politicized or not."

Republicans are particularly concerned about the effect that such a disclosure regimen might have on the fundraising push leading up to the 2012 elections. Organizations not directly affiliated with the political parties — the sort of groups bolstered by the Citizens United decision — spent more than $300 million during the 2010 midterm elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Republican political operatives bestow immense credit for their party's competitiveness in 2010 on organizations such as Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network, both 501(c)(4) organizations. These groups can accept large donations that they do not have to disclose, and Republicans believe their participation in the campaign brought the party to parity with Democrats, who typically benefit from the largesse of organized labor.

Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio described the Obama administration proposal as a "raw political maneuver" that would give the White House the means to create "political enemies lists." Collegio dismissed claims of the proposal's supporters that it is based in a desire to improve transparency and good-government practices.

"It has the distinctly partisan slant of going after contractors — businesses — while exempting grantees, usually liberal nonprofits," Collegio said. "Any time you empower an executive branch with the means to create an enemies list, as this EO does, you invite intimidation into what should be a clean, nonpartisan procurement process."

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